Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Experts, Shmexperts

If you've ever thought that the word "expert" is bandied about way too much, and that many of the people who are commonly regarded as experts are, uh, well, not experts, you're right:

To read the factoids David Freedman rattles off in his book Wrong is terrifying. He begins by writing that about two-thirds of the findings published in the top medical journals are refuted within a few years. It gets worse. As much as 90% of physicians' medical knowledge has been found to be substantially or completely wrong. In fact, there is a 1 in 12 chance that a doctor's diagnosis will be so wrong that it causes the patient significant harm. And it's not just medicine. Economists have found that all studies published in economics journals are likely to be wrong. Professionally prepared tax returns are more likely to contain significant errors than self-prepared returns. Half of all newspaper articles contain at least one factual error. So why, then, do we blindly follow experts?

Because that's what a Herd of Independent Thinkers does.


The Dutchman said...

And the alternative to experts is what? Savants? Psychics? Amateurs?

Maybe doctors aren't AS expert as we would wish, but life expectancy has about doubled since 1800.

Back in the nineteen sixties there was a lot of talk about "pointy headed experts" and it was pretty obvious back then that this was just an appeal to prejudice. So now, when I hear broadsides against "experts" I am deeply suspicious of what the real agenda of such an attack is.

John Jansen said...

I thought a response was worth its own post.